Iowa county elections officials oppose bill to require photo ID to vote

February 13, 2011

by Jennifer Jacos,

A proposed requirement that Iowans show a photo identification in order to vote would be expensive, would pinch voter turnout — and is unnecessary, several county election officials said Monday.

“We already have a very secure elections process. It doesn’t seem to make good sense in tough economic times to increase the costs and make it more difficult to vote,” said Tom Slockett, Johnson County’s 34-year elections chief. “It could be a chilling factor to people who aren’t real motivated to vote anyway.”

The Des Moines Register learned Monday that the state association of auditors, which is comprised of 60 percent Republican election chiefs and 40 percent Democrats, has decided to register in opposition to the bill the Republican-controlled Iowa House passed late last month.

That’s a blow to a proposal favored by the state’s newly-elected elections chief, Republican Matt Schultz, and the new governor, Republican Terry Branstad.

The bill, House File 95, would require all voters who cast a ballot in person to show a photo ID issued by the federal or state government. Otherwise, they could cast a provisional ballot that doesn’t go in the hopper with authentic votes. Voters would then have until the Monday after the election to show up at their county election office to either present a valid ID or sign an affidavit stating they’re indigent or that they have a religious objection to having their photograph taken.

And if Iowans mail in an absentee ballot, they would have to include a photocopy of a photo ID, the bill says.

A total of 67,674 eligible Iowa voters, or 2.9 percent, don’t have a state ID that could be shown at a polling place, the Register found.

That’s based on the latest census figures, which show Iowa has 2,318,362 residents of voting age, and on state transportation records, which show 2,250,688 Iowans have either a state-issued driver’s license or non-driver’s ID.

The proposed bill would require the state to give people free certified birth certificates and a free non-driver’s identification card. That alone would cost the state about $345,000 a year, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

But Jones County’s elections chief, Republican Janine Sulzner, said she worries the bill would discourage voting unless the state paid for a widespread public education campaign to ensure Iowans understood the new rules.

Such a campaign cost Indiana $600,000 last year and has cost $2.2 million since the law was passed in 2005, Sulzner said.

Iowa would need to commit to an ongoing effort to reach out to poor, elderly and disabled Iowans, as well as college students, several election officials said.

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